This story appears in the Foolish Encounters Anthology:
An hour later, restless and feeling more than a little bit trapped by the tight dimensions of the single main room, he looked out the windows and saw that the rain was letting up. It was barely a drizzle now. The prospect of fresh air and a look at his surroundings moved him to open the door and step onto the narrow plank porch.
He’d told Cory he would not leave the cabin, true, but the porch was part of the cabin. Right?
He immediately shivered. He’d come ashore without his coat and figured he must have shrugged out of it underwater. That the weather had taken a cold turn, he felt bitterly. Though the gale had subsided, a brisk November wind whipped trees mostly stripped of autumn foliage. The sun dropped beneath the clouds and threw shadows across the porch and past a few low trees as it painted a bright exclamation point upon a choppy, watery horizon.
Lake Michigan. And he was facing west, because that was a sunset.
Unless he’d been magically transported across the thumb of Door County and into Green Bay, he had to be on an island.
He squinted through the trees to each side but couldn’t make out which direction would take him to town. At the edge of a wildflower-filled clearing to the north, he spied movement on a weathered split log fence. Something big and rust-colored scuttled onto one of the posts and stopped there, positioning its hairy body atop a multitude of bristling legs.
Another creature appeared to pursue it, alike with many legs but displaying some kind of bizarre colored shield upon its back. It was dancing on the fence rail, waving two or more legs at the first creature.
Hell no. No way were spiders as big as raccoons.
The first spider crouched. The second one minced closer. A third one jumped up on another part of the fence, also flashing its colored appendage.
Oh. Fuck. They were huge! Tanner stepped back. A board beneath his heel creaked. The spiders froze. All three jumped in place, turning to face him with creepy legs and eyes as big as tennis balls.
Heart hammering, Tanner looked around for something to throw. He saw only gardening tools. When he looked up again, the spiders must have run away. Garden rake in hand, he held his breath, watching for movement. But the yard was empty. The fence post was barely a gray marker against silhouetted trees as the sun sank low and blood-rose light died on every side.
“What are you doing?”
Cory stood in the doorway. He wore the same shirt from the day before, the same worn jeans and battered boots, the same bemused, wide-eyed look of wonder.
“Do you know you have big-ass spiders on this island?”
“Uh… yes. This is Spider Island. You didn’t… hit one, did you?” The poor guy looked pale.
“Never got the chance. They ran away. I guess I scared them off. Damn, Cory! Do those things ever get in the house?”
“You should sit down. You look awfully shaky.”
“I guess it spooked me.” Tanner hesitated about following Cory into the house. He hadn’t answered the question about spiders getting in. “Tell me there are no spiders in there.”
Cory shook his head and gave him a reproving look. “None. There are no spiders in here. But now you know why I told you not to go outside.”
Tanner sighed, then put aside the rake before entering the cabin. “I know you said not to leave the cabin, but I wanted to see if I could figure out where I was.”
“Well, now you’ve seen. I just—” A slight tremble of the mouth gave Cory more vulnerability than Tanner expected and he felt like even more of a shit. “—I guess I should have been clearer about staying inside.”
“Hey, you were clear as can be. It’s not you, all right? I push things. But I didn’t cause any trouble. Hell, I didn’t even kill one of those creepy spiders. All I did was go outside on the porch, took a look at the lake.” At least his heart had slowed down. He just couldn’t quite get the spiders out of his mind. “At least now I know for sure I’m on an island. It’s just… nothing is right about this place.”
“You’ll go home. You’ll forget all about it.”
“Seeing spiders the size of bulldogs? I don’t think so.” He sat on the sofa. “And Spider Island? Seriously? The only Spider Island I know is a bunch of gravel and weeds!”
From behind horn rimmed lenses, Cory’s big eyes studied him. Probably wondering why he was babbling.
Tanner decided to move to the next topic. “Are we going to town? You said this Jonas guy—”
Cory’s plaid shoulders slumped. “He didn’t make it in. Lake was too rough, I guess. I hope he didn’t get sunk.”
Wasn’t there a radio in this place? Some way to communicate with the mainland?
“Maybe if we went to town I could—”
“It won’t do any good.” Cory looked genuinely sympathetic. “Things are calming down, though. This witch is just passing by. Maybe tomorrow.”
Tanner blew out a sigh. He must have sounded dejected or something because Cory cast him a smile.
“I’ll throw some things in a sack. Things we can eat and drink. We’ll get out of the house and I’ll show you more of the island.” He grabbed some kind of canvas bag and was soon sorting through the cabinet holding his food.
“It’s getting dark.” Actually, Tanner was thinking more about running into enormous spiders. “I think we should stay indoors.” And barricade the windows.
“It’s perfectly safe. You’ll see.” Cory stood up with a bulging sack slung over his shoulder. He grabbed a jacket and handed Tanner a big woolen poncho. “I don’t have a coat your size but you can use this. It’s really warm.”
“Shouldn’t we bring a stick or something? How about an axe, or a gun? In case we meet dangerous animals?”
“There aren’t any dangerous animals on Spider Island.”
Just spiders with heads as big as his and long horrible legs. Did the damn things weave webs? Live off catching squirrels and stray cats?